Archive for December, 2009

@2009—The Year That Went Tweet

Wednesday, December 30th, 2009

Preparing to embark on a New Year is always an ideal time to reflect on the year past.  In our field, perhaps nothing was as striking and pivotal as the widespread emergence of social media, most notably Twitter. To be sure, in 2009, many of us experienced the good, the bad and the ugly where the micro-blogging social media wunderkind was concerned. 

Controversy often kept Twitter in the headlines. Just ask Tony LaRussa or the myriad of celebrities who had their Twitter handle hijacked what it felt like to have someone else saying (tweeting) they were you.  In the Spring, the NFL warned teams against announcing their draft picks via Twitter  before the commissioner did so at the podium. In September, controversial Texas Tech Coach Mike Leach banned his players from using Twitter after one of his linebackers noted the coach’s tardiness at a team meeting the day after a loss. More recently, in Detroit, U.S. District Judge Avern Cohen barred embattled Detroit political consultant Sam Riddle from using his Twitter and Facebook sites to comment on this pending corruption case.

At the other end of the spectrum, the many, many positives of social media (Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube among them) have far outweighed inherent challenges—from both a personal and professional brand-building standpoint. Connecting with constituents interested in what you have to say. Telling your own stories amid a media landscape faced with limited resources and editorial space. Interacting with the masses (and members of the media) without access to a printing press or airwaves.

These mediums have also become a helpful avenue for communications practitioners. Twitter, in particular, often serves as an ideal avenue for breaking and discovering news.  Facebook, many journalists tell me, has become a preferred mode for quickly and effectively tracking down sources (after all, one can immediately determine who is ‘online’ and available in advance of an IM seeking comment).  Similarly, at Tanner Friedman, our firm members regularly interact with journalists (on behalf of the agency and our clients) and are encouraged to do so.

If 2009 was the year of the post and the tweet, 2010 will continue on a similar path with new amendments and evolutions and platforms. Who knows what the next big thing will be? Isn’t that’s half the fun?

Amazon Kindles Spark For Explosion in 2010

Monday, December 28th, 2009

‘Tis the season for making predictions for the upcoming New  Year.  Where  technology and media are concerned it would appear that Amazon’s Kindle and other devises like it are poised for a major breakout in 2010.

A few telltale signs? For the first time ever, the online retailer’s customers bought more Kindle e-books than physical books on Christmas day. In fact, the technical wonder was the “most gifted product” in the company’s history. Add a more consumer friendly price point (roughly $250 and falling) as of this past October and more and more are making their way into the hands of adults and always tech-savvy teens (and you thought they didn’t read anymore).

Moreover, as news junkies of all generations become more and more accustomed to reading daily newspapers online, including via virtual page-turning e-editions, the user- and price-friendliness offered by the Kindle is sure to move many to also consume their favorite books and magazines in the same way.

Perhaps as telling as anything as to a consumer demand that is about to explode is the soon to be launched tablet device from Apple (rumored to be called the Apple Tablet or iSlate).  Think we should “read” something into Apple’s plans?  Let’s just say a year ago I was still plugging CDs into my car dash.

The Worst and Best of 2009

Sunday, December 27th, 2009

From The National Summit to “Twittergate” to three-day home delivery for “daily newspapers,” we feel like we have seen the gamut of the good, bad and changing in communications this year. A few things, though, really stand out (to this blog co-author anyway) so here are some of the Worst and Best of 2009:

Worst Corporate Communications Move – General Motors

As part of GM’s restructuring, it decided to close profitable, privately-owned dealers across the country, even for brands it was continuing to manufacture. The company did such a miserable job communicating the “why” of this decision, even the opinion-leading publisher of the Automotive News, Keith Crain wrote in May that he didn’t get it. To this day, dealers, customers and local officials alike still don’t understand why the dealerships were forced to close.

Worst Statement – Bill Martin, University of Michigan Athletic Director

With his head football coach, Rich Rodriguez, under fire in August for potential NCAA violations, the Athletic Director responded to media inquiries about his future, Martin responded with the program’s 2009 football marketing slogan by saying, “I’m all in for Rich Rodriguez.” At the end of the miserable season, he did it again – repeating the same statement in November. If Martin really supports his coach, he should say that instead of using a marketing tagline as a PR statement.

Worst Media Execution – NBC

Jay Leno Monday through Friday at 10pm Eastern sounded to me like a great idea at the time. Something light heading toward bedtime as strong counterprogramming – a live show versus scripted dramas or “reality TV.” After the first week, though, it has been a flop. Too often the show is just not funny and its “celebrities” have too narrow an appeal to draw a relatively large audience. Also, the pacing of the show is not designed to bring out the best “bits.” Instead, it’s designed for prime time quarter-hour breakups and local news “teases.” It just hasn’t worked and could go down as a historic mistake. I blame execution, not overall concept.

Worst Trend – The Unacknowledged Proposal

We blogged earlier this year about the “Epidemic of Unprofessionalism.” We hope it’s a trend that doesn’t continue. Potential client contacts us. Then asks for a proposal. Then we never hear from them again. It is unprofessional and, from what we heard after our postings, all too common in many industries.

Best Corporate Communications Move- Ford Motor Company

Ford is making money again and, as with virtually every successful company, its communications strategy is paying off. The company has isolated a few key messages (quality, green, popular are among them) and consistently used them across national advertising, local advertising, social media and traditional PR. This proves that companies that communicate well tend to lead their sectors.

Best Response – David Letterman

Before a scandal could even erupt, David Letterman immediately got in front of the situation and talked openly about his issues on his show. His action prevented an ugly media circus and, perhaps, ensuing litigation.

Best Media Execution – Every Organization Tweeting Breaking News

As a news junkie, I absolutely love the national and local news organizations that break news via Twitter. The short headlines and links to Web sites for more details use the medium well and give us, as customers, what we want more often – news about what we’re interested in, when we want it, how we want it, around the clock.

Best Trend – Multiplatform Strategies

When we started Tanner Friedman three years ago, we envisioned Strategic Communications as the way to tell stories and deliver messages across multiple platforms. Today, our clients are doing just that, as are many other successful communicators. We believe this trend is still in its early stages and look forward to developing it further in 2010, as still more new platforms become viable.

Citadel Bankruptcy A Symptom of A Bigger Problem

Sunday, December 20th, 2009

Once again in this wild year of 2009 in the media business, something previously unthinkable has actually happened. A large radio station group owner has filed for bankruptcy.

Not too long ago, holding a local radio station license was like holding “a license to print money.” Not anymore. Today, Citadel, which owns more than 200 radio stations nationwide, filed for Chapter 11 protection. Two years ago, this company bought the ABC Radio Network and legendary stations like WABC in New York, KABC in Los Angeles, WLS in Chicago and WJR in Detroit from the Walt Disney Company.

The irony of this bankruptcy is that many Citadel stations are very successful, in modern terms. They attract a relatively large audience, maintain a strong brand in the marketplace and turn respectable profits for the corporation. What happened in this case is that Citadel apparently borrowed too much money that it can’t pay back, when it’s supposed to. So, the company has to go to bankruptcy court to renegotiate with its creditors.

When most of the public hears “radio bankruptcy,” they figure that radio is a medium that people don’t want anymore. That’s not necessarily true. Radio still attracts a relatively large, albeit older, audience, especially in large markets where listeners spend many hours per week in their cars. Just like local television, newspapers (of course), magazines and even information-oriented Web sites, advertising revenue is scarce. That seems to be part of a bigger trend. In tough times (particularly during a cash crunch), it’s easy for corporations to slash ad budgets, along with PR and other forms of communications. It’s happened across the country, in many industries. It has affected every traditional form of communications and stunted the growth of some “new media.”

But is it best? We don’t think so. When this economic mess is over, we believe the companies that will be in the best position for success are those who communicated their messages during this downturn. Those who chose to stay “under the radar” will fall behind instantly. There are far too many in the “let’s stay quiet and ride it out” category. They might not make it through the recession and, unfortunately, they are dragging media companies down with them.

A Holiday Wish List

Sunday, December 20th, 2009

Truth be told, there’s not really that much that I want for myself this holiday season; certainly nothing in terms of consumer products.

Philosophically and for the overall public good, however, there is much to wish for.  High on my list this year:

(1) Greater mutual respect: I have never experienced a year where, seemingly, certain individuals feel that a challenging economy is an excuse to treat people poorly, including attempting to devalue work product.  No excuse holds water with me in this area.

(2) More rational decision making: Ok, the economy is tough, we get that. But everyone needs to stop, put fear aside and gain some perspective. Let’s stop putting business on hold. Remember, a 20% unemployment rate means 80% are working. And, while automotive is hurting, many, many other industries are not. 

(3) Be thankful: This is a tough one. 401Ks are down, home values are down and all of us know individuals who have been looking for work for months if not a year or more. Yet, at no time during the holidays is it more apparent how much worse things can be as we read and watch stories of assistance for persons that are homeless, hungry, sick. 

This holiday season, keep the faith, stay positive and look forward to the new year to come.  We’ll be right there with you in 2010.

Local Voices Show Value During Holiday Season

Thursday, December 17th, 2009

As you know from reading this blog, Don and I like to write about radio whenever we can share perspective. We both started in radio and have a deep appreciation for the power of that medium. This week, we heard a new reminder about why radio needs to be filled with local personality in order to survive, despite some corporate ownerships’ efforts to strip their stations to the bone as glorified electronic jukeboxes.

This important example, ironically enough, comes from Clear Channel, the company that has slashed hundreds of local personality jobs, pioneered voicetracking (when a host records a show in advance, often from a distant market) and programs radio stations from out of town. We hope executives of that company pay attention to what happened in Detroit this week.

The hosts of Clear Channel’s WKQI-FM (“Channel 95-5″)’s Mojo In the Morning Show, are responding to listener letters to help needy families this holiday season. The station and its local personalities are showing up at houses with gifts, cash and whatever families need. Typically the domain of charities, this station is using its power and personality to touch lives and engage its audience. It is truly some of the best local radio I have heard this year. Check it out via the station’s Web site, including a TV news account of one such home appearance.

When it comes to radio, personality works. Local works. Live audience interaction works. Without all of that, who needs radio to listen to music? You can do that on an iPod. But, as wonderful as the iPod can be as a music delivery device, when was the last time an iPod helped with community service? Or provided you with content that you’re still thinking about two days later?

Nonprofits Lead Charge In Communication Innovation

Monday, December 14th, 2009

In today’s tumultuous economy, what industry would you think is most active and innovative when it comes to communications? High tech? Alternative energy? Healthcare? Would you believe nonprofits?  

Now, one might think that by their very designation and again considering economic challenges and realities, this would be a market sector with little or no dollars for communications. However, it is this very “industry” that truly understands and appreciates the sheer power and cost-effectiveness of a strategic approach to reaching key audiences. To be sure, nonprofits “get it.”

Undoubtedly, today, such organizations are more fiscally motivated, facing the hard fact that state and corporate dollars are no longer what they used to be. Expanding their communications net and reaching out to new sources of support and funding, they know, is vital and accomplished most effectively through traditional and social media.

The latter, in fact, is allowing nonprofits to affect active, on-going, 2-way communications with their “Friends” and “Followers” (those that want this information and discourse) on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and elsewhere. Time was, a nonprofit might interact, inform, engage and or tug on a heart string quarterly or even annually via the occasional newsletter and/or fundraiser. Today, the right messages communicated in the right way can be put forth daily; hourly if called for. Moreover, information can easily be shared and forwarded to others beyond the (ideally) ever-expanding “circle of friends.”

It is quite rewarding to work within a non-profit world, which many have considered parochial and staid historically, which is moving forward, so boldly and innovatively.  They too are reaping rewards as are those they represent with such dedication.

Tabloids Feeding Traditional Media Not New

Thursday, December 10th, 2009

In the two weeks since the Tiger Woods story first broke, I’ve heard from many Tanner Friedman contacts sending me links to stories of all sorts written about the PR aspects of the situation.

One of the comments I have seen multiple times really surprises me and leads me to believe it’s time for a history refresher.

Some have said that this story is bad news for journalism because traditional media outlets are taking their lead from tabloid outlets and reporting “tabloid news” directly, with attribution. While some might not like that practice, guess what – it’s nothing new. It has been going on for years.

The actual beginning of what has been a trend for more than a generation of journalism was in January, 1992. That’s when a “supermarket tabloid” called The Star paid a woman in Arkansas named Gennifer Flowers to talk about her alleged affair with the Governor of Arkansas, named Bill Clinton, who was running for President of the United States.

Not long after The Star’s story appeared, news of the story appeared in virtually every mainstream news outlet in the country. Flowers hosted a press conference in New York and was mobbed by mainstream media. Days later, 50 million Americans watched then Governor Clinton, with his wife, Hillary, by his side, on 60 Minutes, deny the allegation he would admit to, under oath, five years later, but admit to causing “pain in his marriage.” News geeks like me will love this link to the transcript of what turned out to be a historic interview.

While the Gulf War a year before The Star’s big story helped put CNN “on the map,” this scandal has certainly catapulted to the top of minds. Don’t criticize me, please, for putting CNN and tmz in the same sentence. They are owned by the same company – Time Warner.

Tiger Woods And His Road To Recovery

Thursday, December 3rd, 2009

And so the saga of Tiger Woods continues. Since Matt first blogged about the topic several days ago, much has happened. Woods finally did the right thing—admitting his “transgressions” and apologizing to his family and fans—albeit far too late. 

As Matt indicated, effectively managing adversity means being proactive and telling the truth, early and often. Instead, as he avoided police and the media, the tabloids went digging and what might have been a couple day story has turned into a weeklong crisis where scandal forced him to finally come clean; and not on his terms.

Tanner Friedman discussed what’s what and what should be next for Woods this morning on the WDIV-TV Channel 4 Morning Show.

So, what IS next for Tiger Woods? He has a few days reprieve, where public perception is concerned, as he spends time with this family. Eventually, though, in order to continue down the road to brand/image recovery, he is going to have to come out from behind his mansion walls and written statements. He’ll need to take the painful next step of going on-camera and behind the microphone (calling Barbara Walters), perhaps with wife in tow, to publicly address his failings. He needs to express contrition, with honesty, and then demonstrate his words with actions and how he lives his life, moving forward.

The world (including fans and sponsors) is watching, Tiger, whether you like it or not. Time to do the right thing.